Freudian is a 10-track dreamscape that’s core strength is Daniel Caesar’s ability to gracefully shapeshift as the production weaves through smooth, piano and guitar soaked R&B. The sound is reminiscent of Frank Ocean’s most recent release, Blonded only in its minimalist nature. The rest of the record is all Mr. Caesar’s grace and style.
In the first single “Get You,” Caesar croons “who would’ve thought I’d get you,” over an infectious baseline and slowly paced drums, as he asserts the album’s initial theme of love found. The album’s second single “Best Part” opens to a simple guitar riff reminiscent of a stripped down acoustic set, while H.E.R. vocalizes beautiful harmonies with Caesar. The track is slim on production, but Caesar is such a capable singer, it just works. Again, most of this album is stripped down when compared to the majority of the production laden R&B playing on the radio waves today. This minimalist style asserts the artist’s capability as a vocalist and not just as an artist. This is a young man with plenty of music left to make.
In “Hold Me Down” Caesar sings over warped guitars and light, bending synths, questioning, “can you hold me down?" Another highlight, “Neu Roses” opens to stacked male and female acapella harmonies, which turn into a bending, wobbly baseline with light keyboard flourishes filling in the spaces.
On “Loose,” Caesar croons over crescendoing organs until the track plays into a lo-fi piano riff while the artist grapples with the realities of fame and love lost as he sings, “You don’t love me anymore, I see how you like this song.” The next track, “We Find Love,” continues lyrically where “Loose” left off, but it comes in with an upbeat, church-like piano riff, as gospel harmonies play in the background. Caesar sings about getting back up after losing a love, channeling his heartache into this song.
Tracks on the second half of the album like “Blessed” and “Freudian” are piano-laden R&B ballads. One of the albums standout tracks, “Take Me Away” is also one of the albums most guitar-heavy. As the verse plays into the latter half of the song, bending guitars solo over a soothing bass, and features the album's most notable feature (Syd) comes into play out the track.
Now for the bad news. “Transform” might be my least favorite track on the album, not because it’s a bad song, but because it just sounds too similar in structure to the album’s lead single. It’s another guitar-centric down-tempo R&B ballad that’s a fine song in its own right, it just feels like it could have been left off the album, or more creative in its musicality.
As a whole, this is a great studio debut from our newest R&B talent. With Freudian, Caesar has proved that he not only has the singing ability to carry a whole record but a real understanding of music structure and delivery. This album never feels overproduced, and the vocals can be overwhelmingly beautiful at times, especially in harmony sections. What is also pretty cool and notable is all the featured artists on the album are female. Caesar is already playing to his strengths and he’s only going up from here.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Lead image courtesy of @danielcaesar & Instagram